Re: MD food for thought

From: Scott R (
Date: Wed Sep 11 2002 - 22:41:12 BST


Wim Nusselder wrote:

> Dear Scott,
> Your 7/9 1:27 +0000 answer to my question if it is really a problem if
> Pirsig ignored consciousness doesn't really convince me. You wrote:
> 'I think we need it, but that may be that it was in trying to imagine how a
> computer could be conscious, I realized that it logically could not, because
> every event in a computer is separated spatially and/or
> temporally from every [other] event, so there is no way that two or more or
> a million events could be grasped as a whole. For the same reason, a brain,
> considered as a spatio-temporal object could not be conscious either. From
> this I realized that the basic problem was SOM, the belief that reality
> consists of subjects being aware of objects ... My answer to the question of
> consciousness is ... that consciousness must be presupposed, and everything
> else explained as products of consciousness.'
> If you cannot explain how something can be conscious, you explain it as a
> product of consciousness...
> It feels like a language game to me, as logic pushed to the absurd.

Logic (Aristotelian logic) *is* pushed to the absurd if one tries to
answer "What is consciousness". One can only describe something if that
something has structure (is sq), but consciousness is that which creates
structure, it is that which collapses quantum non-locality into space,
time and thingness -- I know, just one interpretation of quantum
mechanics, but I think the right one, which follows naturally if one
turns the question of consciousness around. And, of course, one can say
the same about Quality, with the added bonus of indicating why a
particular space/time/thing appearance occurs, that is, those that have

> Couldn't we say that if 'consciousness' IS something worth worrying about
> (if it exists), it must refer to an 'experience'?

No. We can say that it is experiencing in toto, not "an" experience. But
this just shifts the whole business to another word.

 It is an experience that
> we, humans, obviously have (occasionally). Before we start wondering if
> others (animals, computers etc.) have it or can have it too, we must somehow
> define it. As we, also obviously, don't share their experience (don't feel
> intimately connected to an extent that makes their experience of
> 'consciousness' obvious to us), we must define 'consciousness' by observable
> behavior resulting from it. What can others observe about us when we
> experience 'consciousness' which they cannot observe when we do not?

We can describe behavior of beings we consider conscious, but that is
not describing consciousness.

> You seem to use 'grasping separate events as a whole' as a criterion. That
> reminds me of your/Nishida's 'logic of contradictory identity'. Must
> something/someone experience/grasp events/things as being 'separate' and yet
> 'one' to be conscious? Interesting possibility, but how do we know (from its
> behavior)?

 From its behavior we know nothing about this. And yes, one needs the
logic of contradictory identity, not to describe consciousness but to
bring out its essential mystery, which shows us that our S/O picture of
things is at bottom a construct.

(Skipping how one can describe behavior of conscious beings, as I
consider it another question.)

> By the way: you didn't answer my question what you meant 5/9 22:59 +0000
> with 'Pirsig ignoring the many/one problem'. It's (for me) obviously not
> related to the Q-intellectual/Q-social distinction (as Maggie suggests 7/9
> 12:23 -0400). Both intellectual patterns of values and social patterns of
> values need many people to unmistakably express themselves and to perpetuate
> themselves. Both come into being because of the sense of 'truth'
> respectively 'status' of (many) individuals.
> Again I don't see a problem, nor a hole in the MoQ.

The many/one problem is what I am referring to as the mystery (see
above). Why do we see trees when we "know" (the scare quotes are because
I am putting this in SOM form) that our sense organs can only "see"
photons? What is continuous that sees, that recognizes a before and
after of an event, if it all reduces to atoms moving in a void? That
sort of thing. Bo, a while back, says that the MOQ properly understood
resolves this platypus as well, but I haven't seen the resolution.
Placing consciousness at the center is a step at resolving it, but I
don't think there is any true resolution short of transcendence.

> Interesting that you refer to Rudolf Steiner. I have a smattering of
> antroposophy too, having an antroposophical family doctor, having taught
> economics at the local Free School for a short period and eating a lot of
> bio-dynamical food. You don't need to translate from German for me, if you
> have original quotes and are not sure about your interpretation. I have more
> than a smattering of German.

Sorry, I expressed myself badly -- just wanted to indicate that I was
using translated phrases. I read it in English.

> What does Rudolf Steiner mean with a 'pure intellectual pattern' (which is
> in your interpretation needed to motivate our actions to make us free)?
> The term 'driving forces' reminds me of my favorite way of interpreting
> astrology (as character analysis): I use to interpret planets in a horoscope
> as 'driving forces' that can co-operate more of less harmoniously, that can
> express themselves more or less easily and that have a preference for
> expressing themselves in specific aspects of our lives. I see a character,
> that can be analyzed by studying a horoscope, indeed as a set of patterns
> that limit our freedom, without determining our behavior. If we are
> conscious of these patterns, we can use the implied strengths and limits the
> implied weaknesses. If we are unconscious of them, if we don't use our
> freedom, they determine our fate.

On a first level, I think this is what he meant, that is, by detaching
ourselves by being aware of what is driving us, we can make the choice
of letting it drive us. On a more esoteric level, though, even that is
not enough, in that we have little control of our thinking, which is why
I've said that in some ways I don't consider the intellectual level to
have fully arrived.

> Thanks for your explanation of 'the ego is basically a social construct'. I
> see your point, but it bears hardly any relation to my definitions of the
> social and intellectual levels in the MoQ.
> Ego-creation is for me a process which is part of the intellectual level. It
> implies becoming aware of some of one's 'driving forces'. Fear of others
> (the drive to protect your self), desire of others (the drive to connect)
> and reflecting on others (a combination of the drive to communicate/exchange
> and the drive to independence and critical appraisal of orthodoxy and
> conventions) can be among them. Driving forces become aware because of
> 'mirroring' by others. In that sense ego is indeed a social construct.
> I have Rene Girard's 'Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde.' in
> Dutch translation on my bookshelf. His ideas about 'mimetic rivalry' (we
> want things because others want them) considerably influenced my ideas. It
> describes for me the origin of the intellectual level in a way that is
> complementary to the way in which Pirsig describes it in chapter 30 of
> 'Lila' (with 'ritual' as core concept).

I can see it as a transition between the levels as you describe here. It
allows the intellectual level to appear, but (again speaking somewhat
esoterically) I think it needs to be transcended to allow the
intellectual level to become autonomous (in us).

- Scott

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